Her Best-Kept Secret: Why Women Drink--And How They Can Regain Control

In Her Best-Kept Secret, Gabrielle Glaser (Stranger to the Tribe) traces the evolution of women's relationship to alcohol from the earliest days of the Puritans, when drinking beer was considered safer than water, through the effects of Prohibition to the present day, when "female consumers [are buying] two-thirds of wine in the United States" thanks to concerted efforts to market wine to women beginning in the 1960s. Now, Glaser writes, women are using and abusing alcohol in greater numbers than ever: "Alcohol is an acceptable, legal way to muscle through the postfeminist, breadwinning, or stay-at-home life women lead."

Alcohol, we've been told, combats stress, depression and menopausal symptoms; women see drinking as a rite of passage into adulthood. Alcohol-related accidents and binge drinking, especially in older women, are on the rise, as is the number of women in treatment programs. Glaser provides valuable information on the effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous, a program developed by men and geared toward men, for women alcoholics. She reveals a disturbing history of sexual abuse in A.A. by members who prey on new initiates--the apocryphal "13th step" of getting sexually involved with another recovering alcoholic frequently results in harassment or rape. Glaser offers stories of women who have successfully dealt with their alcoholism through alternative, private programs as well.

"We're never going back to Prohibition," Glaser concedes, but with the help of her insightful and thought-provoking investigation into women and their relationship to alcohol, readers gain a deeper appreciation for the benefits and drawbacks of drinking. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

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